He has been the “guardian” of the fate of Indian hockey in countless cases, and the very presence of PR Sreejesh under the bar is a booster of confidence, says captain Manpreet Singh.
The Indian hockey team is considered a serious contender for medals and one of the main reasons for this is the inherent presence of the Kerala keeper.
“He (Sreejesh) keeps motivating me … he gives me confidence and also the team. In fact, we all have the confidence that we have Sreejesh on target,” Manpreet said during the virtual media interaction of the committed team in Tokyo.
While COVID-19 has robbed them of quality playing time in the last year, apart from touring Argentina, Manpreet believes the core lineup, which has been the same for years, is an advantage for their biggest event.
“In fact, we’ve had the same team for the last three or four years. The strikers are experienced. They did well, so they were selected. Our offensive line will play an important role and score goals.”
For Manpreet, this is the third Olympics, and for many others, this is the second draw in the four-year extravaganza, which has allowed the team to gel so well.
“This is my third Olympics. It’s a great honor to represent your country at the Olympics. I’m also very excited as a captain. We have an experienced country with people like Harmanpreet (Singh), Birendra Lakra, Rupinderpal, etc. We are all excited. from the Olympics, “he added.
The forced shutdown of Covid-19 did not dampen their spirits, although the Olympics were postponed last year.
“Our performances over the last few years have been good. In the beginning of 2020 we played well, we beat good teams. Unfortunately COVID-19 happened, there was a blockade and we were in Bengaluru.
“We trained (in Bengaluru) and the Olympics were canceled. We decided we had to take it positively. How to work on our game and keep improving …,” Manpreet said.
Birendra Lacra, who missed the Olympics in Rio, was excited about the upcoming games in Tokyo and is very happy with the friendship that the team shared.
“Yes … I missed the last Olympics due to injury. They gave me a chance in a tournament with six countries in Spain before Rio (Olympic Games), but I was not in good shape as I should have been.
“Then I worked hard to get back. From the coaching staff to the teammates, everyone helped me. They made sure I didn’t feel left alone. It took me a while to get back on my way.”
As one of the deputy captains and the other is Harmanpreet Singh, Lakra is ready to take on additional responsibilities as a senior player.
“There is a lot of responsibility. There are players for adults … there are also players with experience. At the last Olympics the team’s performance was also good. You would see in the last year and more, the (team’s) performances were good.
“There were disturbances due to COVID, but we trained in Bengaluru. The players were motivated, although we were not able to play many matches due to Covid’s limitations,” he added.
Defender Harmanpreet, who will compete in his second Olympics, said he would now have more responsibility as a replacement for Manpreet, adding that he had learned a lot and understood better.
“There was not much pressure in 2016 because I was a young player. There were experienced players … I learned from them. Now I am experienced, now there are responsibilities and the understanding is better.”
Asked about the possible advantage that Asian teams could have in Tokyo in terms of weather conditions, he said the team is training with that in mind.
“We train in the afternoon. We train taking into account the weather conditions and the required intensity.”